a guide to prague’s astronomical clock
The Astronomical Clock of Prague is the oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still working! It dates back to the 15th Century. It is such an interesting and clever piece of engineering!
Have you ever seen such a complicated-looking clock?
So here is a quick guide to the clock.
The Top Circle
On the outside of the clock, you can see each hour of a normal 24-hour day which shows the “Old Czech Time”. The Roman Numerals on the next inner circle is for the current central European time while the Arabic numerals indicates Babylonian time. There is also a circle with the zodiac symbols indicating which zodiac sign currently reigns.
On the arms of the clock, there is a sun and a moon. During the day, the sun on that clock arm will be in the blue section (the top half) of the clock face. During the night, it would be in the black section (the bottom black circle). The sun moves along the clock arm and depending on the distance from the centre, it indicates sunrise and sunset time.
The black ball that can be seen represents the moon on during its lunar phase. With a new moon, it starts as a black ball and as the month progresses, the ball will slowly turn revealing a bit of silver each day. By the time it is a full moon, the ball will be silver.
You will see on either side of the clock, there are two characters. The first on the left is a man holding a mirror, he represents vanity. The second man is holding a moneybag, he represents greed. The first one on the right is a skeleton, representing death and the last one is a Turkish man holding an instrument representing entertainment and pleasure.
Every hour, the clock performs a little show. Death turns the hourglass in one hand and rings the bell with his other hand. He is beckoning the other three that their time is up! They shake their heads to indicate they don’t believe it is their time.
In the meantime, the two windows above the clock have opened and the 12 apostles take turns appearing to the crowd. Once this performance is complete, the rooster above the clock moves forward, flaps his wings before the clock chimes!
It is all rather theatrical and gimmicky but it’s novel and worth seeing if you happen to be around the clock on the hour (except at midnight when it won’t perform).
The Bottom Circle
This acts as the calendar. If you look carefully at the picture (or click on the image to get a full image to zoom), you will see that at the top, there is a “gold” pointer. Working from the outside, there is the list of each name day for the entire year. Then the next circle in, shows images relevant to farming jobs that farmers should be doing at that particular time of year (e.g. sowing, harvesting etc). The next ring of images indicates the corresponding zodiac signs. And the centre is the coat of arms of Prague.
And to finish, here is a legend about the clock and its maker:
The clock was made by a Mr Hanŭs. The town councillors were so pleased with how it was bringing people all around Europe to Prague. So to prevent Mr Hanŭs from creating another clock ever again, they invited him to a party and they feasted and drank and were merry. The councillors then ordered to have Mr Hanŭs’ blinded and have his tongue removed. The legend continues that to exact his revenge, Mr Hanŭs had his servants take him up the clock tower where he threw his body into the clock’s mechanism to cause it to malfunction. It stopped working until it was repaired many years later.
And as it is a legend, there are many variations to the story. But at the end, whether it is true or not is up to you!
Have a great week ahead, folks!
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lost in translation
Its funny when you travel and you read an English translation of something that simply does not make sense. And then it becomes adventurous when you are at a restaurant trying to decipher what is on the menu. That is the fun part of travelling and what makes travelling so special and memorable.
We had a craving for Chinese food. Yes, we know its Prague but what were our chances?! Surprisingly, we found a Chinese restaurant and started salivating at the thought of ordering sweet and sour pork or a stir-fry of some sort. As we scanned the menu though, the English translation weren’t helping us know what to expect.
Hmmm… we have never heard of “fish-smelled pork” or “strange-tasting duck” before and couldn’t quite picture what those dishes would taste like, so we opted to graciously leave the restaurant.
Onto another Chinese restaurant in the Jewish quarter where we enjoyed quite a banquet there. Upon payment of the bill, we were expecting change so we patiently waited and waited and waited but the wait staff chose to ignore us. We then approached the counter and asked for our change to which they thought we meant “money exchange” and tried to send us down the road!
The beauty of travelling – there is always an element of lost in translation when everyone is not speaking the same language but that’s what makes the experience so fun 🙂
View more photos of our trips at Photo Gallery.
an expensive cab ride
It’s about 3 weeks into our 4-month adventure and the heat wave continues. These countries are clearly not familiar with this type of weather because there is no air-conditioning anywhere.
After a 4 or so hour train trip from Vienna, sitting in a “non-smoking” part of the carriage, we needed to get fresh air FAST! Our heads were beginning to get cloudy from all the smoking in the other half of the carriage. Can someone explain to us how you can have a train carriage with smoking and non smoking separated by no physical partition?! The carriage becomes smoking then doesn’t it? But anyway, as the train pulled into Prague station, we couldn’t wait to leap off and inhale that good ole’ faithful thing called oxygen.
As we got off, we needed to exchange some euros to the Czech koruna (CZK). Converting to a different currency can be so confusing especially when they are in “higher” values. Once currency was changed, we were on our way out the exit when a big burly man approached us and asked us if we needed a cab. But before we could respond, he had “kindly” picked up my luggage and was walking towards his taxi. Picking up the pace, we made it to the car where he loaded us in and drove erratically to get us to the hotel. Alarm bells should have gone off in our head when he wouldn’t drive us to the front and instead dropped us across the road. He told us to get out and to pay 980 CZK. We quickly grabbed our luggage, handed over the money and he sped off. What a fabulous introduction to Prague. It wasn’t until afterwards that we did the maths and realised he charged us almost 40 Euros for a 10 minute (if that) cab ride. We also found out later on that it should have cost less than HALF. Oh well, lesson learnt and lucky it was only money!
Despite that we enjoyed the next few days visiting Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, the Old Town and the famous Astronomical Clock.
Because we had also decided to pick up a lot of souvenirs along the way, we decided to ship them home. Let’s hope it gets there and doesn’t send us broke either!
View more photos of our trips at Photo Gallery.